The Imperialistic, Elitist, and Foolish Scientism of Neo-Atheism

imagesI’ll confess, I grow weary of neo-atheism. There is this constant mantra of “if we are to be smart and open-minded, then we must be scientistic.” This is plainly false and, well, just silly. It is foolish. It is also (surprise) anti-intellectual!

The reason for my rant: I just finished reading Lawrence Krauss’s book A Universe from Nothing. In the book, we believers in God are treated to a litany of strawmen, non sequiturs, and false attributions every few pages. To wit: 

“Science is changing the playing field in ways that make people uncomfortable. . . Lack of comfort means we are on the threshold of new insights. Surely, invoking “God” to avoid difficult questions of “how” is merely intellectually lazy.”[1]

“When it comes to understanding how our universe evolves, religion and theology have been at best irrelevant. They often muddy the waters, for example, by focusing on questions of nothingness without providing any definition of the term based on empirical evidence.”[2]

 “. . . nature may be cleverer than philosophers or theologians.”[3]

 “[P]hilosophy and theology are ultimately incapable of addressing by themselves the truly fundamental questions that perplex us about our existence. Until we open our eyes and let nature call the shots, we are bound to wallow in myopia.”[4]

The idea that science is our sole (or best) source of truth is called scientism. But, Scientism is both overly restrictive and self-refuting. It is overly restrictive because there are many things we know in religion, ethics, logic, mathematics, history, art, literature and so on that are simply not matters of science (we know that two is an even number, that Napoleon lived, that torturing babies for fun is wrong, and so on). Further scientism is self-refuting; that is, it falsifies itself. Why? The statement “science is the only reliable way to secure knowledge” is not itself a scientific statement, and therefore, it cannot be true on scientism. (rather, it is a philosophical statement about the nature of knowledge).

So, what gives here? Why the imperialism? I think it reveals the desperation of neo-atheism. They’ve retreated to their last and greatest bastion of “knowledge” and claimed themselves as the rightful heirs to its deliverances—all without realizing that their claims are not scientific, but philosophical. And worse—the philosophical claims made under the guise of science are just bad philosophy. Interestingly, believers aren’t the only one’s taking notice. Consider the atheist philosopher Massimo Pigliucci:

I don’t know what’s the matter with physicists these days. It used to be that they were an intellectually sophisticated bunch, with the likes of Einstein and Bohr doing not only brilliant scientific research, but also interested, respectful of, and conversant in other branches of knowledge, particularly philosophy. These days it is much more likely to encounter physicists like Steven Weinberg or Stephen Hawking, who merrily go about dismissing philosophy for the wrong reasons, and quite obviously out of a combination of profound ignorance and hubris (the two often go together, as I’m sure Plato would happily point out). The latest such bore is Lawrence Krauss, of Arizona State University.

I agree. It is one thing to think that the evidence from philosophy, science, history, and so on supports atheism. It is quite another to rule by fiat that all knowledge must be scientistic and naturalistic and then to argue on that basis that science disproves God’s existence.

My encouragement to Lawrence Krauss and other neo-atheists: take a deep breath, open your eyes, and allow the evidence to speak for itself—it doesn’t need, nor want, your help.


[1]  Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing (New York, NY: Atria, 2012), xxv.

[2] Ibid., xxvi.

[3] Ibid., 174.

[4] Ibid., 178.

3 Responses to The Imperialistic, Elitist, and Foolish Scientism of Neo-Atheism

  1. Pingback: Why the question- Who Created God?- is nonsense | Paul Gould

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